The other day, I asked a girl why balconies and doorsteps in Tokyo do not have any kind of illumination source most of the time. She responded that the basic concept is that you are out at work the whole day and when you return you draw the curtains, turn off the lights and stay quiet in order not to disrupt the neighborhood quiet time. As I replied that then why don’t they install window shutters (a lot of houses have only single glass-windows and sometimes a net) so that no one can be bothered by the movement inside the house, she looked at me kinda dumbfounded. It seems that such a thought never crossed her mind.
There are certain parts in the modern architecture of japanese (mainstream and cheap) houses that don’t seem so well-thought. First of all there is the lack of insulation, may that be inside the walls or in the form of double-glass windows and aluminum shutters. This ends up being the main reason why people tend to complain about the noise coming from next-door apartments, even if it’s just normal volume conversation. Probably in order to save space, usually houses don’t have a garden or yard. As a result the door is just in front of the street, which not only increases the amount of noise pollution, but also causes security issues, in conjunction with the lack of shutters.
Then there is the lack of proper heating systems for the winter, despite cold winters in Tokyo. Most people use their air-conditioning system together with electrical blankets and carpets for heating. In combination with the first point, it is self-evident that the house never stays warm (or cool) no matter how hard you try.
Then, as I mentioned, there is the lack of electrical outlets for lights at the front door or balcony. The door itself, usually is a solid metal plank with a vent, not fitted well to the frame with no consideration of weatherstripping. The gap between the frame and the door in my house is 1cm, allowing not only cold wind, but also spiders and such to come inside the house. Finally, there is that weird trend of preparing over-the-top single block washbasins and positioning them not together with or outside the toilet, but at the kitchen or any random place in the house.
Enough about residential areas though. Here is a small example of how the upscale downtown shopping area in Omotesando and Urahara, the backside of Harajuku, look like.